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Grand Rapids Dresses up for the Holidays

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

Grand Rapids offers a twinkling magical face during the holiday season. Walking downtown, bundled up against the cold, little peace seeps into what is always a very busy season. Take the hand of your partner or friend and start walking. The U.S. Capitol Tree at the Gerald R. Ford Museum is a great place to begin your stroll. The lights are all over downtown, each with a slightly different twinkle. If you feel energetic, lace up some free skates at the outdoors rink at Rosa Parks Circle. Kids skate for $1, grown-ups are charged a whopping $2 and skates were free.

Grand Rapids has brought window-shopping to a new art form for the second year in a row. Local art students created 31 different holiday windows at local businesses. This year, 100 students from the Kendall College of Art and Design at Ferris State signed on to create highly imaginative displays throughout the downtown area. Window shoppers have been able to vote for their favorite display ala Art Prize and the winning team will be announced next Saturday.

With all this walking, I know you’ll be ready to tuck into a bowl of fabulous pasta. Try the Bistro Bella Vita with fresh yummy Mediterranean country cuisine made from scratch with as many local ingredients as possible. We started with Medjool Dates stuffed with goat cheese. Wow. I always find it impossible to pass up brick fired pizza so I picked the Bella Vita with smoked ham, pepperoncini, red onions, bacon and fresh mozzarella over house made tomato sauce. The Seafood Spaghetti with shrimp, bay scallops and clams with peppers and olives in a spicy tomato sauce also tempted us, especially since they bring in all fresh seafood.

Grand Rapids, like so many towns and cities, has a Nutcracker Ballet holiday tradition. This city does it up big as Grand Rapids native Chris Van Allsburg, author of The Polar Express and other beautifully told tales, teamed with Tony and Emmy award-winning designer Eugene Lee to create new sets and production design. The world-premiere of The Nutracker will be next weekend, December 12-14 and 19-21. Ballet fans can take part in a bunch of other activities. The Grand Rapids Art Museum created a special installation, Re-envisioning the Nutcracker, was a look at the creative process behind the new show including set and production design. Inspired by Land of Sweets, several local restaurants have created special Land of Sweets Desserts for your sweet tooth while others offer unique cocktails. I particularly liked the Snowflake Martini, featuring vanilla vodka, coconut coffee rum, shaken with cream. After a couple of these I might be willing to twirl in a tutu.

Local hotels offer special Nutcracker packages. I liked the one at the Amway Grand, the grande dame of downtown hotels. A $40 breakfast credit, a nutcracker doll, and parking at the hotel all for $199. The iconic, 1913 hotel features one of the world’s largest gold-leaf ceilings and two stunning chandeliers, both located in the Pantlind lobby. The Grand is also decked for the holidays with a two story Christmas tree. If you want to splurge you can book a romantic horse drawn carriage ride.

We stopped by the Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World display at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park on our way home. Some 300,000 lights, over 40 Christmas trees decorated in the style of different, horse-drawn carriage rides, a magical railway garden – offered mre than we could take in during a couple of hours.

Take a weekend and celebrate the season with a visit to Grand Rapids.

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